If you tuned out pandemic news over the holidays, here are some local COVID updates and ideas for safe New Year’s alternative activities:

*Wayne County Health Department is looking for non-medical and medical volunteers to help operate its COVID vaccination clinic, which could open as soon as Jan. 11, when a shipment of Moderna vaccines is expected to arrive. Health officials initially announced vaccines would be arriving Jan. 4, but that shipment date was delayed a week.
Those interested in volunteering at the clinic are asked to contact Dan Burk, the health department’s emergency preparedness coordinator, at dburk@co.wayne.in.us. Vaccines will be given in the former Elder-Beerman store, 601 E. Main St., where COVID testing also is currently taking place.

*Christine Stinson, executive director of the health department, told local media Dec. 29 that the county initially should expect a shipment of a few hundred doses of vaccine, not a few thousand as originally planned.
The first doses available to the health department through the 1B round will go to first responders and those doing vital infrastructure work. WCHD will continue announcing who is eligible to receive vaccines as they arrive through press releases to local media, the department’s website and its own social media.
The state’s vaccination plan notes eventual recipients are to include those at higher risk of death from COVID, and those who are at higher risk of becoming ill through their work or living conditions, such as those in correctional facilities, group homes or shelters, and essential workers.

*Wayne County has passed more than 5,000 lab-confirmed positive cases of COVID, meaning about 8 percent of the population knowingly has been ill with the virus since March.
As of Dec. 29, the county has had 5,114 cases. The number of new cases reported was much lower than usual for several days, likely because of holiday-related lab and testing site closures. State and county-operated testing sites were closed for the long Christmas weekend and open four hours on Christmas Eve.

*Wayne County’s positivity rate for tests has been hovering around the 12 percent mark, so the county is remaining in the orange level for moderate to high community spread.
*Deaths from COVID-19 complications continue to rise. On Dec. 29, the county’s health department learned of five more COVID-related deaths, bringing the area’s total to 138.

*Stinson urged residents to keep their New Year’s celebrations small, only gathering with those in their household, to prevent further spread of the virus. Under orange-level guidelines, no gatherings are to have more than 50 people.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention echoes concern about 2021 celebrations, saying physical distancing and masks are needed, indoors and outdoors when around those not in your household.
For those who choose to gather, indoor spaces should be avoided as much as possible, especially those that aren’t ventilated well. The volume of background music should be kept low so guests don’t need to shout. Shouting or singing can help spread the virus more than talking.

In cold weather, masks should be worn under scarves, ski masks or balaclavas, and spare masks should be carried in case they become wet from moisture in one’s breath or from snow or rain.

The CDC offers these ideas for alternative New Year’s activities:
Have virtual celebrations with loved ones
• Attend a virtual concert or performance.
• Plan a virtual countdown to midnight with friends.
• Enjoy a virtual dinner or dessert with friends and family.
Plan a New Year’s party for the people you live with
• Decorate, play music, and have a dance party with the people you live with.
• Have a pajama party and watch your favorite movies or play games.
• Plan a special meal or dessert with your family.
Reach out to family, friends, and neighbors
• Call, text, or leave a voicemail for family, friends, and neighbors wishing them a happy new year.
• Call friends and family to count down to the new year together.
• Plan a neighborhood countdown to midnight. People who live with each other can stand in front of their house and cheer together at midnight.

Other ideas
• Watch a livestreamed firework display, concert, First Night event, or other New Year’s programming from your home, such as the Times Square New Year’s Eve ball drop. Virtual events are happening across the United States.
• Take care of yourself and do something you enjoy, such as reading a book or taking a walk.
• Pick up a special meal from a local restaurant to share with your household.
• Plan an outdoor activity with people you live with such as a hike or sledding.
• Set new year resolutions. Find out if your hometown is sponsoring a special social media event and share your resolutions.

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